Bobcats creeping toward Top 25 ranking

Pardon Ohio University football coach Frank Solich for his desire to run what he proudly hopes will continue to be a “boring” program.

As the wins and national attention keep coming for the Bobcats, Solich’s first instinct is make sure boring translates to focused and consistent performances.

He’s not going to tell his players to avoid glancing at the major national polls as Ohio creeps toward what would be the program’s first Top 25 ranking, but Solich wants to make sure they understand that any out-of-the-ordinary attention they’re receiving can disappear as quickly as it comes.

“I like being boring,” Solich said. “I like just winning football games. There’s a lot of stuff on the periphery. And I’m aware of all that, but I’m not concerned by it. I’m a bottom-line guy. That’s just kind of how I operate.

“Does a Top 25 ranking mean anything to me today? No. But is it something we’d like our program to be able to accomplish? No question. We’re not going into this next game or any game with any thought of being a Top 25 team. We have a ways to go. We don’t see ourselves as having proven an awful lot yet. We still have a lot to prove, and we know that every time you step on the field in our conference, you have to be on top of your game or you’ll get beat.”
 
The 4-0 Bobcats haven’t cracked the national rankings yet, but they’re getting close. Considering the next three games are against UMass, Buffalo and Akron — those three have two total wins — the Bobcats figure to keep climbing.

The Bobcats received 40 vote points in this week’s Associated Press poll, putting them 29th. Ohio got 13 points in the USA Today Coaches Poll, putting them 37th. The respected college football blog Pre-Snap Read has Ohio at 20th — the Bobcats started the season 26th in that poll — and College Football News, which ranks all 124 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision teams weekly, has Ohio at 45th in its newest list.

“I accept the attention. I think it’s better than the alternative,” Solich said. “Someone even mentioning Ohio University as a Top 25 team nationally is great for our program. It’s great for our players to get mentioned. It’s great for the university and the community and everyone who’s excited about our program. I’m glad we’re getting some attention. You can’t recruit without attention.

“I’m glad it’s happening, but it doesn’t change the bottom line. The bottom line is our guys have a chance to have a successful season and they have to make it work.”

Solich welcomes all that has come with his program’s recent run of success. He’s 54-40 as Ohio’s coach, 31-14 since 2009. The Bobcats have won the Mid-American Conference East title twice in the past three seasons and were the unanimous pick of preseason poll voters to win it again.  

“I don’t know when we took over this program that there were a lot of expectations,” Solich said.  

The Bobcats’ win last season over Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl was Ohio’s first bowl win. That it capped a five-year run of 37-28, which is the best five-year record in program history, says a lot about how far the program has come.

The next step, internally, is to win the MAC title game and the school’s first MAC title since 1968. If the Bobcats keep winning as they chase that, the rankings will come. The chances of crashing the BCS party, even at 13-0, are very slim. That’s a long way away, but the Top 25 is not.

Seeing Ohio University in those rankings? Even Solich couldn’t spin that as boring.  

“A Top 25 ranking can be a measuring stick,” Solich said. “Whether it is for us yet or not, I’m not sure. But it can be. From where we’ve started to where we are now, there’s a lot that’s been accomplished. I feel really good about the job our staff has done, what our players have done and the backing we have from our president and our athletic director and the community. There’s a lot that goes into a program being successful. We’re fortunate to have a lot of the right pieces you need to move a program forward.

“We’re more concerned about how we’re preparing to play and how we’re playing than long-range goals. They’re out there, and they’re good things. But you’d better be zeroed in on what’s happening today.”